Celestial events in the skies for the week of Dec. 20-26, 2016, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Christmas Week 2016 has planet Venus blazing brightly above the southwest horizon like a Christmas Star. And that goes double for bright Jupiter in the morning sky. The Moon will be in the after midnight scene, so the evenings will be filled with starlight. AND, it will officially be Winter this week, the solstice being Wednesday.
Tues. Dec. 20
The Moon is at Last Quarter, rising at 1 am. The late night finds Orion the Hunter beginning his dominance of the celestial realm with his canine companions Canis Major and Minor. Behold the beauty of the Universe as you safely celebrate the holidays.
Wed. Dec. 21
Winter Solstice at 5:44 pm when the Sun stands over the Tropic of Capricorn. Remember, south of the equator is celebrating Summer—so to warm up, check out those beaches in Rio and Sydney! On this 1968 date in space history, the world was excited as the world’s most powerful rocket, Saturn V, blasted off Cape Kennedy, Florida with Apollo 8 atop and three astronauts bound for an orbital mission to the Moon, 240,000 miles away.
Thurs. Dec. 22
An inspiring morning celestial scene as the crescent Moon, Jupiter and star Spica stand in a straight line in Virgo. Rising together at 3 am, the three celestial objects in conjunction with each other will put on a show until twilight drowns them out around 7 am—the Moon lingering in our morning blue sky.
Fri. Dec. 23
The night sky can be a sanctuary of structure and sanity from the craziness of holiday shopping. Taurus, Auriga, Orion and Gemini are rising in the east, their brilliant stars adding some brilliant “bling” in the sky. Go outside and recharge with some fresh air and starlight. Each point of light is a world of its own, there for you to enjoy and wonder.
Sat. Dec. 24
In 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the Moon with three Americans, a triumph that led to the July 1969 landing by Apollo 11. That Christmas Eve, astronauts read from the book of Genesis during a live broadcast, the camera showing the moving cratered terrain below. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders are still alive to relive that historic space mission.
Sun. Dec. 25
Christmas Day. Born on this day in 1642 is one of the world’s quintessential geniuses Isaac Newton. He is known best for figuring out the mystery of gravity and invention of the reflecting, mirror telescope. But two little known facts about Newton are he pursued alchemy in the quest to make gold and was a scholar of the Bible. FYI, among those also born on Christmas Day are: Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Buffett
Mon. Dec. 26
Anybody getting a Christmas telescope has the Moon to get acquainted with. There are usually three lenses with even the cheapest telescope…say, a 25 mm, 10 mm and 6 mm. Stargazers don’t like real high power because it distorts things and makes it hard to keep steady. The higher the number the lower the power, so put that 25 mm in the telescope and experience 80-100x power. The 12-10mm lenses will give about 200x power, and that 6-4mm lens is almost worthless at close to 400x on anything but the Moon.